Pennsylvania gets four more years of Democrat leadership with the inauguration of Gov. Josh Shapiro, the state’s former attorney general, on Tuesday. At 49 years old, he is Pennsylvania’s youngest governor.
Also sworn in was Lt. Gov. Austin Davis, 32. Davis won both this office and his reelection bid in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Shortly after the election, Davis vacated his seat in the state House. He is the first black lieutenant governor in Pennsylvania.
A February special election will be held to fill that seat.
Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf leaves the office after meeting the two-term limit, amounting to eight years. Pennsylvania’s last Republican governor was Tom Corbett, who served from 2011 to 2015.
By tradition, Pennsylvania inaugurates the governor outside, on a chilly day, in front of the statehouse.
In attendance were newly elected U.S. Sen. John Fetterman and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, both Democrats, plus other members of Congress. Former Govs. Tom Ridge, Tom Corbett, Mark Schweiker, and Wolf attended. Shapiro shared breakfast with them Tuesday at the governor’s mansion. Former Gov. Ed Rendell was invited but was not well enough to travel.
The inauguration ceremony started with the singing of the national anthem, followed by “Lift Every Voice,” sometimes called the “Black National Anthem.” That was followed by the rarely heard Pennsylvania state song, titled “Pennsylvania.”
Government ‘a Productive Force for Good’
Shapiro is a gifted orator sometimes compared to former President Barack Obama. His first speech as governor lasted about 20 minutes. He got a little choked up while thanking his family, Pennsylvania First Lady Lori Shapiro and their four children Sophia, Jonah, Max, and Reuben.
“I just want you to know how much I love you,” Shapiro said, looking at his family before turning to the audience. “And I want all of you to know just how hard I will work for your children.”
He invited people who benefited from his work as attorney general to attend, and mentioned them in his remarks.
“Your problems have become my priorities. Your causes, my concerns. Together we’ve taken on the power, and we’ve empowered the people. People like Alexis, who was ripped off by a predatory student lender, and whose story inspired a fight to take on that powerful entity and bring real relief to thousands of Pennsylvanians,” Shapiro said. “People like Tim, who did the backbreaking work on our roadways for decades, just to have company executives steal his hard-earned benefits, but whose courage led to accountability and change. Like the families who have lost loved ones to the opioid crisis. They shared their grief with me, but also their resolve to keep up the fight to protect others from the dangers of addiction, made worse by corporate greed.”
He did not reveal many specifics about his agenda but he was clear on his stance on abortion.
Shapiro pledged to work for “people like Danielle, who bravely told us her own story about her decision to have an abortion to save her life. And we’re honored to have her on the stage with us today.” Because of his supporters, he said, Pennsylvania will not go back to what it was like before Roe v. Wade. “We won’t! We won’t!” Shapiro almost shouted, as the crowd erupted in applause.
“I’m mindful of the fact that you’ve shared those stories with me because you believe that I can make a difference for you,” Shapiro said, adding that he also heard those who didn’t vote for him.
“I will do my best every day to be a governor for all Pennsylvanians. But right now is the time to join together behind the unifying strength of three simple truths that have sustained our nation over the past two and a half centuries. That above all else, beyond any momentary political differences, we value our freedom. We cherish our democracy. And we love this country.”
Shapiro then called those who question election results “extremists.”
“We didn’t allow the extremists who peddle lies to drown out the truth. We showed that our system works. Our elections are free and fair, safe and secure,” he said.
Shapiro’s words were met with applause.
“Only by setting the table of opportunity and inviting all to come and sit and partake, can we advance the cause of real freedom … the kind of real freedom that comes when you live in a Commonwealth that respects you for who you are, no matter what you look like, where you come from, who you love, or who you pray to or choose not to pray to. Real freedom, freedom that makes government a productive force for good that allows us to tackle the challenges.”
Shapiro’s well-funded campaign spent more than $70 million to win the seat. He was backed by wealthy Democrats across the country, with donations from George Soros’ son, Jonathan Soros, who lives in New York, along with the younger Soros’ wife, Jennifer Soros, and Andrea Soros, George Soros’ daughter.
Shapiro flew around the country in private jets during his campaign, fundraising and campaigning to people in Atlanta, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and Connecticut.
His name has been thrown around as a future Democrat presidential contender. This possible aspiration was alluded to in the banter Tuesday among lawmakers in Harrisburg and has been the subject of news articles for several years. His platform mirrors that of Washington Democrats. He is supportive of gun control measures, broad access to abortion, and has the support of teachers and labor unions.
Shapiro is keeping some cabinet members from Wolf’s administration and nominating new members. Some have connections to Washington, such as former Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, a Republican nominated for Pennsylvania Secretary of State—the position that oversees elections.
On Jan. 6, 2023, Schmidt received a Presidential Citizens Medal from President Joe Biden for his role in administering the 2020 presidential election in Philadelphia.
Rick Stiger is nominated for Secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development.
Stiger is currently chief of staff to the president at Carnegie Mellon University, and he served in the Obama administration for more than seven years as chief of staff at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and as deputy chief of staff at the Department of Commerce.
Major Christopher Paris is nominated for State Police Commissioner. He has risen in the ranks of the Pennsylvania State Police since he enlisted in 1999. Paris is a graduate of the FBI National Academy Session 267.
Joseph Lee, Shapiro’s new deputy chief of staff for administration and opportunity, is a former political analyst at the CIA and helped prepare the president’s daily briefing as a member of Obama’s analytic support staff.
Election staff and supporters will gather Tuesday night for a celebration at Rock Lititz, a stage production facility in Lititz, Pennsylvania.
Entertainers performing at Shapiro’s inauguration celebration include Motown recording artist Smokey Robinson, who does business and owns property in Pittsburgh, and rapper Wiz Khalifa, whose 2009 debut single “Black and Yellow” was a tribute to his hometown, Pittsburgh.